Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dear Friends,

I’ve been pondering a couple of perhaps related notions, poking round in their crooks and crannies, for the past few days. One is the seemingly farfetched idea proposed by a contemporary cosmologist and mathematician, Max Tegmark, that our Universe is made of numbers.

Now, nobody ever bumps into the numeral One or π when walking through the park, of course. But we do know that everything in nature, everything from the smallest scale to the greatest, everything from very basic physics to the most complex chemistry, even the the paths of individual fish in a school or children meandering in a gaggle across the schoolhouse playground can be described in algorithms composed of chains of numbers and mathematical notations. Four digits describe all of the genetic code in every life form we know of. Might the reason for these obvious and real facts be that the Universe is actually made of nothing but numbers?


So, where do numbers come from? It’s not like Pythagoras invented the numbers in his theorem. If he hadn’t come along, somebody else would have soon discovered the same mathematical expression for the theorem that became synonymous with his ancient moniker. Triangles would exist without he, Plato and Euclid ever pondering their perfect forms.

What else do we know in our Universe that is composed out of ethereal digits? Computer code, more or less rigorous math and logic, is one answer. Might all that we know be merely an elaborate string of code written by some extra-universal teenager frittering away a the billion-year nighttime while shrugging off his homework assignment for the next morning’s class in Cosmic Engineering and Applied Creation?


Like all computer code, of course, the one that might lie at the foundation of our perceived Universe, has bugs. Take Infinity, as an example. Math hates infinities. There are an infinite number of them, for one thing. Yes, that was a pun.

There is also the problem that physics has with infinities. Everything we might understand about what happens at the birth of our Universe is blown to smithereens by our best equations arriving at the numbers of Infinity. Likewise, we cannot use our mathematical tools to peer into the heart of a black hole, for therein lie infinities. Oh, and we get back to π! What is the deal with such a sublime number that perfectly describes what we observe but has no end? Sounds like a bug in the code to me.

What do you think?

Looking Forward and Beyond,